MSU Pompon Team works to uphold Spartan legacy
Why this matters
The MSU Pompon Team was the first collegiate pompon team in the country, and since numerous other teams have popped up, primarily in the Midwest.
When the 30 women of the MSU Pompon Team step onto the floor at competition, they don’t think about the competition itself or the final scores — they think about the team culture of unity, friendship and love, and they think about the legacy and reputation the MSU Pompon Team holds.
“‘Love the legacy,’” assistant director of alumni relations and head coach Linda Conradi said. “We say that on the team a lot. It’s not about the win or the competition, it’s about the reputation. We make sure we stay true to who we are and honor all the women who came before us.”
While collegiate pompon has progressed throughout the years and has spread across many college campuses, it’s still fairly new.
The team was created in 2005 by four Spartans — Brittany Struble-Campbell, Ashley Thelen, Alison Knopic-Miller and a fourth unknown member. Other collegiate teams got their start soon after. Traditional pompon is only seen in the Midwest.
“Those first four girls were the pioneers of pompon,” Conradi said. “We used to wear our uniforms twice a year, now we wear them every week. The girls before had to fight for every opportunity. The girls now make sure they are representing the legacy properly.”
After the team performed a routine at the high-kick competition last year called ‘Spartan Strong,’ the routine gained so much popularity and attention they were asked to perform at the MSU vs. U-M basketball game halftime show.
“The Spartan Strong routine was by far my favorite memory because we got to share our passion with our school, with other Spartans, and to appreciate our sport and love for our school,” biomedical lab diagnostics sophomore Gabbi O’Connell said.
For kindergarten teacher and assistant coach Danielle Cowper, her favorite part about coaching is seeing the process unfold.
“They are proud to walk out onto the floor after the words Michigan State University and show everyone what we are about, what we have worked on for the past six months and what we stand for,” Cowper said in an email.
Leading up to competition, there is something the team never discusses outside the group — their routine. Since the team was created, a tradition they have upheld is to hide their theme until the day of competition.
The team keeps their theme a secret because it builds trust among the team and it makes competition all the more exciting.
“We work so hard for so long for a routine and for that three minutes, we finally get to show the world what we’ve been working on and what we are like as a team,” O’Connell said. “For all the anticipation to build up and to show everyone what all of our hard work has been going towards,we want everyone to love (the routines) as much as we do.”
While the fact they have won almost every competition they have ever competed in, the 30 women and their coaches always stay true to who they are, and “love the legacy.”
“I always tell the girls, ‘after your performance, if you feel like you could leave the competition and not find out what place you got, you did your job,” Conradi said. “It’s not about the win or the competition, it’s about the reputation.’”